Supreme Court of India recently issued a landmark ruling concerning the reassignment of deactivated mobile numbers by major mobile service providers such as Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea. The court’s decision permits these providers to reassign deactivated numbers to new subscribers after a designated waiting period, a decision that carries significant implications for WhatsApp users.
WhatsApp, as it is closely linked to a user’s mobile number, has sparked concerns regarding data privacy when transitioning to a new phone number. Acknowledging this concern, the Supreme Court has underscored the significance of WhatsApp users proactively deleting their data before changing their phone numbers, thus safeguarding themselves against possible privacy infringements.
In a recent development, the court rejected a petition aimed at preventing mobile service providers from reactivating previously deactivated mobile numbers. Advocate Rajeshwari, who had filed the petition, had sought the involvement of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to address this issue. Nevertheless, the court affirmed that it is the duty of the former subscriber to take the essential measures to safeguard their privacy. This can be achieved by deleting their WhatsApp account linked to the former number and erasing any stored data from their local device memory, cloud services, or drives.
This ruling is consistent with the directives established by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in 2017. According to the DoT’s guidelines, a deactivated mobile number should not be reallocated to a new subscriber for a minimum of 90 days. This policy affords the former subscriber an ample period to safeguard their privacy.
To promote greater transparency and streamline processes, the court highlighted the presence of the Mobile Number Revocation List (MNRL). This digitally authenticated document maintains a record of permanently deactivated mobile numbers, thereby preventing unintended individuals from receiving One-Time Passwords (OTPs) from diverse service providers, banks, and non-banking financial institutions.
In summary, the Supreme Court’s verdict solidifies the legal standing for mobile service providers to reassign deactivated numbers to fresh subscribers after a 90-day waiting period. WhatsApp users are strongly advised to take the proactive step of erasing their data linked to their former number, ensuring the privacy of their information during the transition to a new number. By striking a harmonious balance between safeguarding subscriber privacy and maintaining efficient number allocation procedures, this ruling contributes significantly to upholding the integrity of the mobile service industry.